I was tagged once, long ago, to make a list of songs I’d like played at my funeral. There was no logic involved in how I chose them. A couple were evergreen favourites and the rest just popped in my head [no they didn’t – music never pops in my head. Cold springs don’t pop in Kutch. They trickle petulantly, after five and forty virginal cows birth five and forty full-grown healthy bulls under five and forty consecutive full moons.]
So when Ben asked me to make a list of my favourite five, I panicked. There’re only so many times virginal cows birth full-grown healthy bulls under full moons. You don’t challenge Providence with such injudicious frequency.
So I did the next best thing. I EB-ed* U into making a list. Not just any list. But a list of songs [since you’re so aurally aware and musically evolved, I said, massaging this inflatable nub of self-appreciation in his head] that characterise me.
Characterise you? He said, looking worried. As in the songs you like? I could swear he almost added – but there’s nothing to pick from, but he didn’t. Marriage has clearly worked wonders on his tongue. Mostly.
Nonono. I said with the golden ease of a greasy ileesh slipping through a Bengali fishnet. Why would I make you do something so nothing-ish, baba? I want you to do this because you have something special that I don’t have.
A unique perspective on me, I said, beaming back.
It’s like when I taste the raw pungency of mustard oil, I think of you [to him it is a compliment] there must be something you associate with me, na?
Ok he said. Nostrils flaring from the pressure of an over-massaged distended nub of self-admiration.
Thaaaaaaaaakeeeeeeeeeyoooooooooo. I gushed, overcome with genuine gratitude and love for my brother, and more importantly a deep excitement at the prospect of having a unique musical perspective on myself from someone who had had unequalled opportunity to observe and admire me since he was a baby and had compiled 101 gb of music along the way.
Big mistake, it turned out. For this is what he came up with:
Ani DiFranko – buildings and bridges
Or anything by Alanis Morisette. He added.
Why? He panicked. But that wasn’t part of the deal.
Of course it was. Do you think I care for the songs? I want the reason, I said, thumping my chest – the feeling of H-ness to it.
Okaaay. They both have a similar sort of errr… thought and errr… intensity to their music. Not just in what they’re saying but even the way they sing.
So you mean I’m angsty, hanh?
No ya. C’maawwwn. [he’s picked up this irritating way of refuting something in a way that he’s not really refuting it, but expects you not to confront him with it. Because. And that’s why it must be said with a jarring faux American accent. Because.]
It’s just… [and while he left this ellipsis hanging in the air, a wicked thought formed in his head] Well, he started afresh – firmly this time, it’s you. Just something about it reminds me of you. Here, he said, thumping his chest.
Madonna – La Isla Bonita
This is for the cheesy dated 80s side of you.
… But NOT in a bad way, he said, looking at my face.
Boy George – Karma Chameleon
For your general androgynous nature.
No not in the way you look he added, close to tears now. But for your general appreciation of the general construct of androgyny.
My brother uses two words with alarming abandon when he’s nervous – general and pedagogy. When pedagogy enters the conversation you know there’s trouble. Thankfully this conversation was still creeping around general. We had two more songs to go, see.
And then, he added with what seemed like genuine fondness, getting uncomfortably close to something – and of course for its 80s charm.
Okay. I said. OKAY. You’re trying to say something to me, aren’t you?
Listen to the next one now, he said.
Outkast – Hey Ya
Outcast - Hey Ya link
Because they’ve got a nice quirkiness about them. It’s a nice mix of errr…
U, I said, THIS SOUNDS LIKE IT’S FROM THE 60IES. WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO SAY?
He has this way of saying 60IES?!?!?!? Like you’ve gone farking off the edge. Like you’re hallucinating about pork chops in your tea. This so effing contemporary! Trust me. I wouldn’t associate anything from the 60ies with you. 80ies maybe.
Two seconds later he added: Weeeeeeeeeell, I guess what’s quirky about them is they mix retro elements with contemporary rhythm structures with a very ummm kind of… errr kind of a semi kitch space. You know, he added, warming up to his own voice, it’s like a vibrant poster using rich patterns and motifs.
It’s FUN, you mean, I suggested, to which he shrugged.
… and NOW moving on. He said. Moving on.
Bryan Adams – When you love a woman
Apparently I demand this in my idea of being adored.
It’s the Ooo pamper me side of you. Your girlie side, he said.
I don’t know… somehow, from my brother, it sounds like an effing accusation. Na?
And finally, his bonus song…
Carl Douglas - Everybody was kung fu fighting
For the inherent violent streak in you, he said affectionately. Shouting from behind closed doors and rolled up windows and all that fake bravado. He knew I’d take this one as a compliment.
My brother does know me.
But. Such sibling-ly love and the-advantage-of-a-lifetime’s-opportunity-to-observe-and-admire-you considered, never ask your brother which songs remind him of you. Despite a 100-and-1 gb collection of music from around the world, he’s going to pick the cheesiest pop off the top of his head, so he can quickly dispense with your stupid requests and race home to his lovely-like-jazz wife and a costlier-than-a-solid-gold-pair-o-bollix custom made analogue audio system.
* ElBowed, Emotionally-Blackmailed, and Elder-sibling-Bullied.